3 Tips To Adding Suspense To Your Novel – Help! Hurry! I Can’t Put It Down

Photo by BarbaraDin

Photo by BarbaraDin

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Do you know that red-eyed stare? The one that looks back at you from the mirror when you are up most of the night finishing a new book?

Oh, boy do I. As a mom of four, reading during the day is not very practical. Instead I wait till the kiddos go to bed and then out comes the latest book that I have wanted to read. I want to be entertained, taken to another place, kept on the edge of my seat. . .

Of course, I love and hate it when I can’t put the book down. What makes it that way?

Why are you able to drift off to sleep after reading a few chapters of some books and others keep you turning the pages until “The End?”

3 Tips To Adding Suspense To Your Novel:

1. Create Tension In Your Scenes: Conflict is adding obstacles to your character’s goals. But Tension is making them care, connecting them to why it matters that your character doesn’t reach their goals.

For example: If the heroine is searching for a woman who is missing and the latest lead in the case was a dead end, that is conflict.

Tension could be created by saying that the missing woman is the last person who saw the heroine’s sister before she disappeared. That makes us care, especially if the sister is a younger girl.

2. Always End The Chapter On A Cliffhanger: A chapter is a natural place for a reader to put a book down. If the end of each chapter leaves a reader hanging, they want to read just a few more pages.

Photo by ColinBroug

Photo by ColinBroug

The end of the chapter must smack with a dangling problem or mystery that drives the reader forward. If your hero/heroine could go to sleep without worrying at the end of the chapter’s events, so could your reader.

3. Surprise Your Reader With Interesting Details: Not every page can have the world ending, but you can weave surprises in between the big disasters to keep readers curious.

Reveal a new secret or detail about the hero/heroine, create a surprise in their relationship, or reveal a new piece to an unfolding mystery. Keep them curious for more.

There are so many books that have kept me up all night. One of the more recent ones I’ve read is Butterfly Palace by Colleen Coble.

What is one book that kept you up all night to get to the end?

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About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

19 thoughts on “3 Tips To Adding Suspense To Your Novel – Help! Hurry! I Can’t Put It Down

  1. Since I’m on deadline, I haven’t read many books lately, but one that I still think about from a while back is When the Devil Whistles by Rick Acker.
    And these are definitely great tips for keeping readers up at night. 🙂

  2. Great tips, Michelle! I read Storm Siren by Mary Weber in one sitting. I was on the edge of my seat and she did an incredible job building tension and conflict and oh wow! the cliffhangers! Such a great book!

  3. Mindy says:

    I’m directing a conference this year, the WriteTech conference that features tools to gain efficiency and social media channels for platform-building, so I haven’t dared to pick up a book! However, when it’s over in two weeks I have a goal of reading the books I haven’t read by Julie Klassen and Susan May Warren. It will take awhile. Feel so blessed I was able to meet them in person because when I started reading their books, I couldn’t stop! And, I plan on reading all of Michelle Lim’s books, too…..in the Lord’s timing…:)
    Blessings from WA!

  4. Beth Brekke says:

    Now You See Her, my first James Patterson book. I didn’t even know I liked that kind of book. lol

  5. Network of Deception by Spencer E. Moses is the most recent book I couldn’t put down. His female lead is a member of the Israeli Mossad and it was fascinating watching her (er…I guess reading) save her country. However, this is one book, Three by Ted Dekker, that to this day was the so suspenseful that when I was done I sent it far, far away.

    • Michelle Lim says:

      Ted Dekker has a way of drawing you in and dangling you over the cliff. He is amazing at it. I’ll have to check out the book by Spencer E. Moses. I haven’t read that one yet. Thanks for sharing.

  6. dtopliff says:

    I only recently discovered Dee Henderson’s books and they definitely kept me up and taught me lots of craft.

  7. jackielayton says:

    You all named so many great suspense writers who kept me awake. Another of my favorites is Brandilyn Collins. I won’t even read her suspense stories if I’m home alone at night.

    Thanks for sharing, Michelle!

  8. Liz Johnson says:

    Great tips, Michelle! I loved Julie Klassen’s The Secret of Pembrooke Park. I couldn’t put it down until I knew ALL of the secrets. And there were many! I also loved Faking Normal by Courtney Stevens. We know that one of the men in the story committed a terrible crime, and just when I was sure I knew who it was, the author would add a twist and leave me completely unsure. I stayed up ALL night to finish that book. It was so worth it! Red eyes and all! 🙂

  9. I must admit that anything written by James Rubart keeps me up at night. His books are my “just one more chapter” reads.

  10. jackielayton says:

    Hi Michelle,
    I’ve been working on making my opening scarier. I struggle with how to make the reader care when I start out with scary and they don’t know my characters yet. You can’t believe how many places and ways I’ve recreated the first scene.

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